The Christmas countdown is on, and with it, a bunch of family-friendly things to do before the big day. Buckle up your Santa suit and get ready to run in the Hoboken Annual Jingle Bell 5K in Hoboken, witness live ice sculpting at Ice Sculpting on the Plaza in Brick, or get in your last-minute shopping in at the final weekend of the Asbury Park Bazaar in Asbury Park. And for more ideas and places to go, check out our Winter Festivals in NJ.
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(Note: Since COVID-19 rules and regulations are continually changing, it’s best to check ahead for in-person events)
The Nutcracker Rocks at Axelrod Performing Arts Center
The Axelrod Theater showcases varied and distinct cultural programs. This December, choreographer Gabriel Chajnik translates this holiday classic to contemporary times in a musical collaboration with renowned rockers from The Gaslight Anthem.
Cost: $26 and up
100 Grant Avenue, Deal, NJ 07723
December 16, 17, 18, 23, 30
Take a self-guided tour at Kip’s Castle to experience the holidays circa the 1920s. Kip’s Castle Park grounds are open from dawn to dusk seven days a week.
22 Crestmont Road, Verona, NJ 07044
Rahway Winter Wonderland
December 17, 18
Live jazz, fire pits, hot chocolate, giveaways, decorate an ornament, candy canes, ice sculptures, a holiday DJ, and photos with Santa. Don’t miss Santa on parade on December 18.
Train Station Plaza, Cherry Street, The Paseo, and Arts District Park (weather permitting), Rahway, NJ 07065 (732) 669-3600
The Nutcracker featuring the American Repertory Ballet at The State Theater of New Jersey
Take your kids to a classic—the timeless and enchanting Nutcracker is back on stage, with the American Repertory Ballet dancing.
Cost: $25 and up
15 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08901
New Jersey Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Nutcracker with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
It’s New Jersey Ballet’s 50th Anniversary of the Nutcracker, and they are celebrating with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
Cost: $35 and up
100 South St., Morristown, NJ 07960
Atlantic City Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Strand Theater
Since 1922, The Strand has had a rich history with monumental performances over the years, and this year you can take in the beauty of The Nutcracker with the Atlantic City Ballet.
400 Clifton Ave., Lakewood, NJ 08701
Hoboken Annual Jingle Bell 5K
Put on your Santa Suit and get ready to run into the holiday season. All fitness levels are welcome to walk or run alongside the New York City skyline. They will be spacing out the start times, having hand sanitizer readily available, no water stations on course, and more.
Cost: Prices increase periodically
Pier A Park 100 Hoboken, NJ 07030
The Hip Hop Nutcracker with MC Curtis Blow
See the re-mixed and re-imagined Nutcracker with a twist that mashes hip hop dance and Tchaikovksy’s timeless music together into a heart-stirring and inspirational holiday event. The Hip Hop Nutcracker is brought to life by a powerhouse cast of a dozen all-star dancers, a DJ, a violinist, and MC Kurtis Blow, one of hip hop’s founding fathers, opens the show with a short set.
1 Center St., Newark, NJ 07102
35mm Classic Film Series: The Polar Express at Union County Performing Arts Center
Enjoy popcorn, a pre-organ show, Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, followed by the classic Polar Express.
Cost: $8 for adults, children under 12 are free
1601 Irving Street, Rahway, NJ 07065
Holiday Train Show
Choo choo! Visit the InfoAge Science & History Museums to see holiday trains and then hit the museums with exhibits on military equipment, radios, shipwrecks, and computers.
Cost: Adults $10, Kids $7
2201 Marconi Road, Wall Township, NJ 07719
Atlantic City Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Circus Maximus Theater at Caeser’s Atlantic City
Spend the day in Atlantic City and take in a show right in Caeser’s in Atlantic City. There’s no better combination of shore and shows in one location, and what better way to celebrate the holidays than with the Nutcracker presented by the Atlantic City Ballet.
2100 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, NJ 08401
Ice Sculpting on the Plaza
Warm-up with some hot cocoa and head to the Boardwalk to watch an ice sculptor create holiday magic out of a sheet of ice. This event is weather-dependent.
100 Cedarbridge Avenue, Brick, NJ 08723
Christmas At Allaire
Stroll through the Historic Village at Allaire and celebrate Christmas past. Enjoy the rich history of Christmas in the 1800s. Visit the Chapel, Bakery, Blacksmith’s Shop, Allaire Residence, and more as your guided tour brings alive the spirit of Christmas past with traditions and holiday decorations. There will be music, history, and theater too.
Cost: $8 for anyone over the age of 3
4263 Atlantic Avenue, Farmingdale, NJ 07727
Stockings Hung With Care At Historic Walnford
Decorate or “sew” a paper stocking and then bring it home to put out for Santa.
62 Walnford Road, Upper Freehold, NJ 08501
Virtual Kwanzaa Festival
Take an online class to explore West African dance, stepping, Zumba, drumming, capoeira, Bebop Graffiti Arts, or Afrobeats. This year’s virtual festival runs through December 31, featuring online programs inspired by the seven principles of Kwanzaa (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith). Tune in for a panel discussion about storytelling with the elders, social justice, or Black theater, or stop by the community marketplace for some online shopping.
Virtual, New Jersey Performing Arts Center
Nunnbetter Dance Theatre
Nunnbetter Dance School students and New York City ballet dancers come together in the full-length adaptation of the Nutcracker.
Cost: $17 and up
18 Woodbine Street, Bergenfield, NJ 07621
Step into an open-air Christmas wonderland. This walkthrough features vintage figures from the 1950s-70s with different scenes that change every year, from the traditional Nativity Scene to modern Christmas.
Cost: $12 adults, $10 for children
Maple Leaf Farms – 525 Route 9 South Manalapan, NJ 07726
Ocean County Library (Berkeley Branch) ‘s Gingerbread House Contest
Deadline: Now-December 15
Encourage your littles, kiddos, and older kiddos to build masterpieces, and then create a gingerbread house of your own. And as long as your creation stays under 12″ x12″, you can make your house from anything — edible or not — including objects from home. Winners from each category will get prizes from The Friends of the Berkeley Library.
30 Station Road, Bayville, NJ 08721
Holiday Express Benefit Concert at The Count Basie Center of the Arts
It’s the “Ultimate Holiday Show” with its unique mixture of traditional, gospel, and rock ‘n soul holiday music. The Benefit Concerts support Holiday Express holiday programs, delivering the gift of human kindness to those who need it most – 27,000 individuals in 100 locations across New Jersey, New York, and Philadelphia. The Count Basie Theater offers numerous performances throughout the year and educational and cultural partnerships, and a school with acting and vocal classes for all ages.
Cost: $25 and up
99 Monmouth St., Red Bank, NJ 07701
Dickens Village Maplewood
Now-December 18, select dates
Dickens Village will bring various scenes from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol to life in miniature houses arranged in Ricalton Square. This community tradition opens in December and runs each Saturday until Christmas. The festivities include horse and wagon rides, a petting farm, tree lighting, and Menorah lighting.
Ricalton Square, Maplewood, NJ 07040
Asbury Park Holiday Bazaar 2021
Peruse the aisles at the Asbury Hotel for the best local and regional artists, vendors, and shops selling art, jewelry, home goods, food gifts, and more. After, catch holiday entertainment, holiday photo stations, and enjoy seasonally inspired food and drink. Littles can participate in a festive holiday craft workshop while you shop for gifts.
The Asbury Hotel, 210 5th Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ 07712
Ebenezer: A Christmas Carol at Surflight Theatre
This Jersey Shore 450-seat theater offers Mainstage shows and Children’s Theatre, and this year you can see the holiday classic Ebenezer: A Musical Christmas Carol from now through December 19.
Cost: $31 and up
201 Englewide Ave., Beach Haven, NJ 08008
Elf The Musical at the Broadway Theatre of Pitman
Based on the 2003 movie, Elf is a fun show for the whole family featuring musical numbers and dancing.
43 S. Broadway, Pitman, NJ 08071
Long Branch Holiday Bazaar
There will be food, vendors, and more at this Bazaar, with live music, holiday photo stations, craft workshops, and beautiful holiday décor. The holiday market is inspired by the traditional “Weihnachtsmarkts” held in Germany. While you shop, enjoy delicious food and libations, and craft beers from Whitechapel Projects.
15 2nd Ave., Long Branch, NJ 07740
The Nutcracker at The Growing Stage, The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey
See the classic tale of the Nutcracker at The Growing Stage, the Children’s Theatre of New Jersey. A stage perfect for young audiences with kid-friendly shows featuring young casts.
Cost: $17 and up
7 Ledgewood Ave, Netcong, NJ 07857
Scrooge at Spring Lake Theatre
Step back into a building from the 1920s to see a local production of Scrooge. It’s the 39th production this year. Cost: $25
300 Madison Avenue, Spring Lake, NJ 07762
Bell Works Fresh Holiday Market
Now-December 22, Wednesdays
If the weather outside looks frightful, you can still shop at this indoor market with 80+ local farmers, food purveyors, local artisans, and more. While you browse, kids can be entertained with crafts and live music, plus sample plenty of festive treats and drinks.
Bell Works, 101 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733
Asbury Fresh Pop Up at Porta
Now-December 23, Thursdays and Sundays
Experience a warm and toasty holiday market season in good ol’ Asbury Park. Shop locally curated vendors and enjoy pizza and festive drinks.
Porta, 911 Kinsley Ave., Asbury Park, NJ 07712
Skate with Santa
Now-December 23, select dates
Lace-up your skates and get ready to hit the ice this December at American Dream. And we didn’t even mention the best part—you can skate with Santa and his elves and listen to festive carols as you glide.
Cost: $18 and up
American Dream Mall, 1 American Dream Way, East Rutherford, NJ 07073
American Dream Heart of the Holidays
It’s the “The Heart of the Holidays” celebration throughout December at American Dream Mall. You can visit the Elf Workshop tucked inside Nickelodeon Universe daily to visit stations run by elves, where guests can write a letter to Santa, decorate ornaments, or color some pictures. Or see toy soldier stilt walkers or listen to local performers showcased across American Dream’s social channels and live pop-up performances throughout the mall on Music Mondays. On Wish Wednesdays, beginning December 9, make a wish in the Garden Court with one of American Dream’s holiday elves. There’s a Candy Cane Passport Hunt, and on Saturday, it’s Holiday Sweater Saturdays. Tickets for Nickelodeon Universe are not required to participate.
Cost: Prices vary per event
1 American Dream Way, East Rutherford, NJ 07073
Battleship New Jersey Holiday Train Display
Experience a new model train display in the Wardroom aboard the Battleship New Jersey. The show is courtesy of the South Jersey Garden Railroad Society.
Cost: Free with the purchase of the tour
100 Clinton Street, Camden, NJ 08103
Sea of Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular
Now-December 28, select dates
Where else can you see an actual diving Santa Claus, but at Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant Beach? The Holiday Lights Spectacular also includes treats, crafts, pictures with Santa, games, entertainment too.
Cost: $9 and up
300 Ocean Avenue, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742
Turtle Back Zoo Holiday Lights Spectacular
Now-December 31, select dates
Grab your winter coat and get ready to stroll through the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo to see over 50 winter and animal characters. The event will feature weekend Santa visits, a train, carousel, reptile house, aquarium, and Essex Farm and Pony rides. Donations are recommended.
560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange, NJ 07052
Thomas Sweet’s Holiday Village
Stop by Thomas Sweet Chocolate for their annual Winter Village, a miniaturized winter scene in the store windows. You can gaze upon this gorgeous lit village for the entire holiday season. While you’re there, go skating on the square, or enjoy the beauty of the Christmas tree.
Thomas Sweet Chocolate, 29 Palmer Square West, Princeton, NJ 08542
Smithville Holiday Light Show On The Lake
Over 120 Christmas Trees with over 50,000 Christmas lights float on Lake Meone in the center of Historic Smithville. When darkness falls, an orchestrated show of lights and music plays across the lake. The show can be seen from either side of the village and the bridge.
Historic Smithville, 615 E. Moss Mill Rd., Smithville, NJ 08205
See over 30,000 lights at Fanwood’s Famous Christmas House, which has bright displays and a light show every evening. Donations will be accepted for the NJ Institute for Disabilities.
82 Paterson Road, Fanwood, NJ 07023
Let it Glow: A Lantern Spectacular
Now-January 30, Thursday through Sunday
Take an enchanting stroll through the Bergen County Zoo to see over 30 scenes of handmade delight and the animals that live there. You can even hop aboard the train. This event is separate from Winter Wonderland in the park and requires a separate admission ticket.
Cost: $15 for adults, $7.50 for children, under 2 is free
216 Forest Avenue, Paramus, NJ 07652
Morris County Winter Farmers’ Market – Grow It Green
Now-March 27 (except December 26)
The Morris County Winter Farmers’ Market features more than 20 farmers and local food vendors to develop a local food system that patrons can eat locally and seasonally. There will be freshly grown produce, farm-raised beef, pork and poultry and fresh seafood, baked goods, farm eggs, and so much more.
Convent Train Station, Convent Road, Morris Township, NJ 07960
Now–into Winter 2022
Wrap yourself in the warmth of the holiday season as the grounds of Cape May’s only Victorian House Museum. The Emlen Physick Estate will be lit up and glowing. Join the Winter Wonderwalk to walk the grounds and view these fun and whimsical display of winter’s past. And continue the festivities by walking along the streets of Cape May’s decorated homes.
1048 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204
RWJBarnabas Health: Cooking Classes for Kids
Dates and times vary depending on the program
Kids of all ages will love cooking up healthy treats in these virtual hands-on cooking classes (adult supervision required during class): Try Healthy Kids in Hannah’s Kitchen for kids 8-12, where they’ll learn to use a recipe, cook with nutritious ingredients, and utilize kitchen basics or try Taste Testers in Hannah’s Kitchen, a Mommy and Me style class for 2-4-year-olds.